Complete this sentence: “You’re so money…
b. “you just don’t know it.”
If you’re here in the UK you probably chose (a) because it’s the tagline of a major ad campaign for a price comparison website in recent years. If you’re also a movie buff, though, you might recognise (b) as the true origin of the phrase, from a cult 90s comedy called ‘Swingers’.
Now, firstly, let’s quickly establish, in case you’re choking on your cornflakes or spluttering into your soup right now, that the movie ‘Swingers’ is not about suburban sex parties. It’s actually about two guys on a harmless night out in Las Vegas and the famous phrase ‘You’re so money’ is used repeatedly by one of them to try to build his friend’s confidence in talking with women.
For me, the phrase sometimes comes to mind when I’m listening to people describe where they’re at with GTD®, especially people who’ve read the book and tried to implement the methodology but have not yet reached the sunlit uplands that it describes. They can sometimes be a little despondent.
The blogger David Cain, author of the excellent personal development blog ‘Raptitude’, is possibly one of these people;
In my own quest for the grail, there probably isn’t a book I’ve read more times than David Allen’s landmark book Getting Things Done. It presents a watertight system for gathering all of your obligations into a giant funnel, and cranking them through a coordinated workflow system so that pure success gushes out the bottom.
I love the system, and I’ve spent much of my adult life fantasizing about having it in place. And several times, I have — for about 48 hours. Then at some point I forget to check a few of the interconnected lists and folders, and soon my watertight system has become another pile of papers with important things written on them that I will get to someday.
What David and others like him are often not seeing is the fact that they’re doing lots of things right. They’re capturing the things they need to do something about in their busy lives and they’ve set up some kind of a place to put them. But then it goes pear-shaped.
In their subsequent low mood they can’t see that they’re sometimes just a few fundamental steps off track; there can be just a few key things missing which, if corrected, could get them to a much happier place. Fixing this is often the stuff of a brief coaching and delivering one can feel like being a mechanic and knowing just the right place to whack the machine with a spanner to see it spring back into life again.
But what if you’re coming to GTD without even a malfunctioning machine to whack? Even then, things might not be quite as hopeless as you think…
In this situation, I like to lift the spirits early doors. Sometimes it’s fun to celebrate someone’s initial mindsweep by dramatically announcing ‘Congratulations, you’re practicing GTD!’ It comes as a surprise to them to realise that some success has happened so fast, but it’s true. Any attempt to externalise reminders outside your head is GTD in action. It’s a longer journey to black belt, for sure but, nonetheless, it’s worth celebrating this realisation.
So if you think you haven’t started practicing GTD, or if you think you’ve all but stopped – clinging onto the wagon with just one fingertip, as a client memorably described it – here are some things you can still celebrate to keep hope alive;
- Do you mark emails as unread when you have to do something with them? Congratulations, you’re making a distinction between the actionable and non-actionable things in your life. Next, start to actually keep the two things in different locations.
- Do have a calendar, with things in it? Congratulations, you’re operating a trusted system, a single point of truth for things that are time-specific. Next, start doing the same for things which aren’t, by maintaining a set of lists for everything else you’re committed to.
- Do you have a shopping list? Congratulations, then you know how context-based organisation works. Next, extend the logic of that highly practical approach and start to think of other contexts which reliably crop up for you and where you’d like to have specific, relevant reminders easily to hand.
- Do you drop your keys and wallet or purse in the same place every night when you walk in the door? Congratulations, you’re using an action support system so that the tools you need are to hand at the right time. Next, apply the same thinking elsewhere, whether it’s paper in an action support folder, emails attached to a ‘to do’ item, or a web link pasted into a calendar item.
- Do you manage to have a quick look at your calendar at some point on a Friday afternoon or Monday morning? Congratulations, you’re doing part of a GTD Weekly Review®. Next, review more of your lists at the same time to get even more benefit.
If you’re doing any of the above then you’ve started practicing GTD. The path to increasing your mastery is not just about starting new behaviours from scratch but also about seeing what’s already working, understanding why it’s working, and doing more of it. So here are some questions to consider;
- Where are you already organised in your life? Why? What can you take from there and do elsewhere?
- When do you feel most focussed and productive? Why? Where else can you make it happen?
- Which productivity habits and tools do you have that work well? Why do they work? Can you expand the benefits to other places?
Don’t overlook or underestimate what’s working already. You’re money. You just don’t know it.